Council rejects Farrell House permit request

Issues with traffic, noise and safety are cited

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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In a unanimous vote, the Camas City Council made a clear statement that a proposal to use the historic Farrell House for public events did not meet city code criteria and could be detrimental to the Evergreen Terrace neighborhood.

More than 50 people packed council chambers, while even more listened in the lobby as City Council deliberated for about two hours Monday night.

The motion to deny the permit request was approved based on findings that allowing the Farrell House to host special events could cause problems in the Evergreen Terrace neighborhood relating to parking, traffic, safety, noise and alcohol use. In addition, the decision was made based on the belief that the permit did not meet comprehensive plan guidelines and would be detrimental to the overall peace and quiet of the neighborhood.

In the closed-record decision, all seven council members agreed the permit request should be denied.

“I was very surprised at 7-0,” said longtime Evergreen Terrace resident Clifford “Bert” Duncan, who has been a vocal opponent of the proposal.

Mark and Janet Lawrence, who live about a block away from the Farrell House, breathed an audible sigh of relief following the vote. They said they opposed the permit for the Farrell House because it had the potential to have a negative impact on the neighborhood.

“We don’t want our quality of life to be diminished,” Mark Lawrence said.

“We are a community, and we really just don’t want that jeopardized,” Janet Lawrence added. “This is a longtime city neighborhood. We want to preserve it and keep it. It’s a wonderful place to live.”

On Aug. 2, the Camas Planning Commission recommended approval, with conditions, of the unclassified use permit application submitted by Farrell House owner Heidi Curley to hold catered special events on her property located at 416 N.E. Ione St.

The conditions included not allowing noise levels to exceed 55 decibels during special events, concluding outdoor events by 9 p.m., and indoor events by 10 p.m., and installing temporary tents and other equipment no sooner than 24 hours before the event and removed no later than 24 hours after the festivities.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation also limited to four the number of outdoor events per month at the Farrell House from June through August. That could include one major event (not exceeding 80 guests).

Last night City Councilman Tim Hazen, an Evergreen Terrace resident, said he did not believe the potential impacts of the business on the neighborhood could be mitigated.

“I am pro-business. I own and operate a business myself,” he said. “I’m not convinced we can make it through this. I believe it will be detrimental to the neighborhood, to the property owners, and to the people.”

Councilwoman Shannon Turk said the potential for the event center to create parking problems on surrounding city streets was her biggest concern about the proposal, despite the fact that the nearby Camas Friends Church signed an agreement with Curley to make its lot available.

“Even though it is provided, will [event attendees] use the church parking lot, or will they park closest to the [Farrell House]?” she questioned. “Is there a way to prevent people from using city streets? It doesn’t sound like it.”

Councilman Don Chaney, a former Camas police chief, agreed that parking was a major concern.

“It is a real challenge with respect to safety,” he said. “I am not convinced that the conditions I see will accommodate what I see as a significant concern.”

Duncan said he was pleased with the process the City Council used to make its ruling.

“I thought they made a thoughtful decision,” he said. “They obviously had looked at the criteria and said the key here is, would I like it next to me? They zeroed in on how they felt it would affect their life.”

This morning Curley said she has accepted the decision, and thanked the City Council for its time and consideration. She declined to comment further on the findings that led to the denial of the proposal.

“That was their decision, and we’ll leave it at that,” she said.

Curley, a mother of three, said she does not plan to appeal the decision or re-submit the application.

“We’re just going to focus on raising our girls in this beautiful home.”

The city council will vote on a resolution to officially adopt its findings relating to denial of the permit request during a special meeting on Monday.